by David Downie
Many wine lovers know that in the Middle Ages monks at the abbey of Cluny in southern Burgundy perfected the art of winemaking. But few outside the region have heard of Rector Eumenus’ speech in 312 AD to Emperor Constantine at Augustodunum, today’s Autun. Even locals don’t realize that fine wines were being grown in Constantine’s day on the limestone hills of the Côte d’Or.
Eumenus extolled in particular the vineyards of a pleasant village called Belenos, on the Roman road from Lyon to Paris, in the sunwashed Sâone River Valley. Still the capital of winegrowing in Burgundy, modern Belenos, better known as Beaune, hosts more wineries within or near its medieval ramparts than any mere mortal—except, perhaps, Robert Parker—could reasonably discover in anything less than a three-day visit.